Rudderless ship

I find the current Test match between Australia and New Zealand very interesting. There were 16 wickets today. Just one day – that’s more than you can expect in whole Test in India. And 26 in the first two days. Australia were on top at tea, having ripped out the Kiwis fir just 156. However, it’s anybody’s game with Australia 6/131 at stumps. A lead of just 189. That might already be more than New Zealand’s first innings but the word is that the pitch is still very good.

I’ve been quiet over the past weeks so I’m going to bang on for a short while about Australian cricket and what I think needs to be done.

The selectors need to take control and act decisively. They need to start with the captain. Ponting needs to be relieved of the leadership. Any player can captain a team of champions to win after win. Ponting is found lacking when adversity arises. And Australia is not yet through with adversity. Ponting cannot even admit his mistakes and learn from them, let alone behave graciously. I don’t think Cricket Australia helps. They are interested in making first and foremost and like so many organisations, seem to think that admitting mistakes is bad for business.

Ponting’s behaviour in the final Test against India was disgraceful. I have never seen on a cricket field anything more selfish and unAustralian. Firstly, Ponting was responsible for the slow over rate. And then he insulted his team, who had played themselves back into the match, and the series, by denying them a chance of victory. All to save his own skin for one or two Tests. He was rightly criticised by two of Australia’s greatest captains (Border and Ian Chappell). Rather than saying “Can I come around for a coffee and have a chat, AB?” (CA has advised that modern, professional players do not “come around for a beer”), Ponting denied all wrong doing and basically told the legends of the game to sod off.

When attacked on or off the field, Ponting quickly goes on the defensive. On the field, this is reflected by his negative field placings and uncreative use of bowlers. Ponting seems to have an aversion to slips. He loves 12th man. That Simon Katich did not bowl a ball until the third Test in India was deplorable. Mitchell Johnson needs to be able to bowl at the stumps – left handed bowlers need to take wickets by bringing the ball into right handers and then taking one away. Johnson can’t do that because he bowls to packed off side fields – so he bowls two feet outside of off stump.

I have resigned as James Sutherland’s advisor. When he decided to call Ricky in after the fourth Test debacle, I advised him to take his chance. Ponting was ripe for a coup. I set up a meeting with some of the Big Bank spin doctors (they are the ones who write the letters to make it sound like interest rates and fees going up is a good thing for their customers). I felt that all we needed to do was demote Ricky and make it seem to him like it was a positive. This is what we came up with. It’s rather obvious that Ricky needs to concentrate on his batting. It has suffered with all the stress of leading a losing team. Stepping down will let Ricky keep his average above 55 and allow him to chase Tendulkar’s record. But here’s where the spin doctors earn their money. Ricky is obviously using up all his luck and can’t even win a toss (he’s lost four in a row now). By being spared from the all important toss calling, Punter can save all his luck for the track. Brilliant. However, James was having none of it. So I resigned.

I’d be happy for Clarke to take over, but perhaps he is still young. Here’s one from left field: Simon Katich. Alright, I stole the idea from Tugga. Katich is made of stern stuff. His batting in the past 18 months has shown that and he has proved himself as captain of the Blues. His batting today further supports this. The team needs calm and assured leadership. You can see panic in the little things the team is doing wrong. In the final Test in India, Australia lost three key wickets to run outs (Hayden, Hussey and Ponting) and it happened today with Clarke, the batsman of the match so far, losing his wicket to sloppy running. (BTW, if he’d bothered to run a little harder, Katich would be 5 runs richer, as the direct hit went for four over throws).

Haddin is a dilemma. I don’t think his potential is doubted but his ‘keeping has been no more than acceptable and his batting has disappointed. Perhaps we should not expect another Gillie but this is his 8th Test and he hasn’t bettered 45 not out. And it is not like he has not had chances. Perhaps Luke Ronchi should be warming up.

Hayden’s treatment will be important. I think he gets another Test, at least. He did get two good balls this Test but he’s been out in the first over of the innings three times in the past five Tests.

And Watson. Now I know you all think I have it in for him. But I don’t. I think he was admirable in India and performed to the best of his ability. And some of the time, he was the goods. But not often enough. He had a score of 78 and best bowling of 4/41. If he could do that regularly, he would be a good all rounder to have. He is where the selectors have lost there way. Watson is not going to make it as the third (or fourth seamer). It was fair enough to give Watson a go when Symonds was left out. Watson is more of a batsman than a bowler and he is not a Test number six. He sure is not one of the four best bowlers in the country. So why is he in the team? I think Siddle is worth another look. He performed well on a track, and in conditions that were as far from ideal as possible.

I’m not convinced about Krezja. He deserves more chances and I presume he will play in Adelaide. Let’s remember that he started in conditions that really suited him. BTW, I support him not playing in Brisbane and I think the decision has been vindicated.

If Australia comes out of the series against New Zealand in tact, they be tempted not to make changes and think things are OK. There could be a rude shock just around the corner when the South Africans arrive.

I seez it but I don’t believz it

For Jason Krejza, the hits just keep on rolling. I don’t know if he is Australia’s spin saviour but who cares? Did anyone put some money on Krejza taking 8 wickets on debut? Of course not. And that was in one innings – 8/215.

It’s true that Krejza was expensive but who cares? He took wickets and quickly in the end. India were 5/422 and looking impregnable. A few minutes later, Krejza had eight wickets, India had lost 5/19 and Australia was back in the game.

After three overs, Krejza had an economy rate of 10.67 rpo. Good on Ricky for with persisting with Krejza. And persist he did, he bowled and bowled – one ball short of 44 overs, in fact. His spin twin bowled just 10 overs. By the end of his first Test innings, Krejza had an economy of a shade under 5 rpo. His average is 26.87 and wait for it, his strike rate is 32.8. If only Australia could have taken the last five wickets in the first Test for 19. Or the second Test or the third Test.

Krejza bowled 35% of Australia overs, he conceded 49% of the runs and took 80% of the wickets. That takes some pondering.

215 runs is the most runs ever conceded in an eight wicket haul. The figures are the 87th best innings analysis ever. One of the two wickets he didn’t claim was Tendulkar – and he had him dropped twice. The mind boggles at a “nine for”. Krejza’s figures were are the 8th best on debut. In fact, 215 runs is the most conceded on debut! With Krejza you get more of everything!

Warne took 1-150 from 45 overs on debut, also against India.

Australia has started well chasing 441 and is 2/189 at stumps (Katich 92* and Hussey 45*). The word is that Krejza spun the ball more than any of the Indians.

“Dizzy, my head is spinning”

Dear Selectors

My head is spinning and it’s you that’s making it spin. With the departures of Warnie and Magilla, Australia has serious spin bowling trouble. I understand that you are not conjurers, but I would like to know why you are making things worse than they need to be.

I’ll explain what I mean. Beau Casson became the number one spinner in Australia in June, when Stuart MacGill retired. Or was that really, “became the number one Australian spinner who happened to be in the West Indies”? Whatever the case, Casson took three second innings wickets, Australia won and while Casson did not set the world on fire, he may have thought he gained a pass mark.

Wrong. Under four months later, when the tour party to India was announced, Casson found himself no better than the third ranked spinner, when the selectors gave McGain and Krejza the nod. When McGain suffered an injury before the first Test, Casson probably felt relieved. Sorry for Bryce of course. But worse was yet to come. Casson found he was no better than the fourth ranked spinner in Australia when Cameron White got the call up. How does a player drop from number one rank to number four without any cricket being played?

I heard some reports that the thinking (I don’t know if it deserves to be called thinking) or rationale was that a spinner was needed to turn the ball away from the batsman. Had the selectors noticed that White is a leg spinner who rarely bowls leg spinners (he bowls googlies) and when he does, that they don’t spin? Had the selectors noticed that there are left-handed batsmen in the India team. In fact, the best of them in this series is Gambhir and he bats left-handed. Casson would have been turning the ball away from Gambhir. I’m sure that would have made all the difference. I don’t know if this line of thinking was true but it’s hard to imagine something so muddle-headed. Australia needs to choose it’s best bowlers, whatever the flavour.

I said before this series that the Australia are going to struggle over the next 12 months and to have any chance, they would need astute selection and good captaincy. I don’t want to detract from the Indians but Australia has had neither of the requirements met.

Best Regards